footlights, Pearl Pirie
Radiant Press, 2020
What always amazes me about reading Pearl Pirie’s work is her close attention to the poetic details that can weave themselves into the very fabric of a person’s life. In a western world where so many people seem to rush after elusive ‘promised lands,’ Pirie asks her reader to look more closely at the tiniest things that populate a day’s routine. There are pieces about poetry readings with cocky young poets who soak up praise, but then rudely leave before the ‘headliner’ reads. There is also a visit to a big chain bookstore in a frustrating search for independent poetry books in amidst the mass produced “100 Best Love Poems” anthologies that seem to populate shelves around the country.
There is a poem about a diva cup that frustratingly misbehaves, as well as a poem about an outing to a greenhouse to push a “trolley cart of ferns” that “squeaks on left turns.” Who hasn’t had a cart that squeaks, I wonder, and spoken to it with a scolding tone so that you can just get to the cash and go home with your purchases? Pirie’s sense of humour, wit, and intelligence is present through footlights. She is a master of exploring various poetic forms, so it’s always nice to see the way in which she has so carefully crafted and structured her collections.
Here are lines that sing as you read them out loud, pulling you further and further into the cadence of Pirie’s work. The title of “let us make” slides seamlessly into the first line with “myths of ourselves instead of the usual/fools.” In “lifting for the purposes of night,” six beautiful couplets carve out vivid images and phrases:
moon’s face is both up
how the bottom
of an airplane wing
night sky slips
the room into bluer.
This is a small poem that builds itself around texture, in how things feel to the touch, and in sight, and in the way even the tiniest mosquito hitches a ride on a current of air through a room. It is, I think, a poem that embodies all of what is best about Pearl Pirie’s work: she looks to—and documents—the tiny things in life with careful attention to detail. In so doing, she asks her reader to consider their place in the world, physically, spiritually, mentally, and philosophically.
“in the park’s verges” is a love poem that feels organic, holistic, and raw. Pirie writes “you are a cosmos./you are bright as my insides,/as this swallowed sun of my entrails.” There are “missed spots/that need my lips. where I have touched glows.” In “all in,” the poet writes “prayer moves/nothing but//the warm mouth.” From there, lips are licked without thinking, a breath in “of cool-air words,//the sensation of a pre-kiss.” These are the sorts of moments in life that you don’t want to pass by with any great speed. If you’re lucky, the memories of such kisses should linger, but will also hopefully resonate in your physical body when they’re recalled and reimagined.
With Pearl Pirie’s footlights, the reader moves through urban and rural spaces, to suss out and feel the difference between the two as the poet asks her reader to consider their own place within their life space(s). Here is a collection that speaks to resilience—in the face of the many struggles and challenges we all face as we make our way through our daily lives—and one that also speaks of grace, compassion, and gratitude.
Kim Fahner lives and writes in Sudbury, Ontario. She was poet laureate in Sudbury from 2016-18, and was the first woman appointed to the role. Kim's latest book of poems is These Wings (Pedlar Press, 2019). She's a member of the League of Canadian Poets, the Ontario representative of The Writers' Union of Canada (2020-22), and a supporting member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada. Kim can be reached via her author website at www.kimfahner.com